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Category Archives: Culinary Explorations

Recipes, yummy bites and discoveries

Hotel Cooking

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While waiting for my home furnishings to arrive from the US, I have been living in a hotel in Herzogenaurach, Germany for the last 5 weeks. I am equipped with a two burner stove top, two pots and one fry pan. This can take a bit of creativity. Here are some of my culinary creations….

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Bacon, Heirloom Tomato, and Grilled Cheese Sandwich

While at the grocery store, I zeroed in on an heirloom tomato display.  I knew I wanted to purchase one, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to make.  I thought about my favorite ingredients – bread, cheese, tomatoes – and decided to make my version of a BLT…minus the “L”.  Grabbing a loaf of artisan piccolo bread, 2 different cheeses, and bacon, I headed home to cook.  I sliced the bread into hearty slices and drizzled with olive oil.  I pan seared them and then added some fig balsamic.  Next step- cheese!  I shredded the main cheese called Ruth Kase Grand Cru (which is a cow’s milk cheese made in Wisconsin and melts wonderfully).  On top, I shredded some pecorino with truffle to add a little flavor twist.  Both cheeses topped the bread, followed by the heirloom tomato slices and bacon.  I added a little cheese in between the layers to help “glue” the sandwich together and cooked in the pan until fully heated through.  That little tomato inspired a delicious sandwich!

Ingredients:

  • Heirloom tomato
  • artisan bread
  • variety of cheeses (pick your favorites!)
  • bacon
  • olive oil
  • fig balsamic

ingredients

Gathering the ingredients

sliced bread

Hearty slices

fig balsamic

Adding the fig balsamic

cheese

Layer of cheeses

tomatoes on top

Heirloom tomato slices

bacon

Bacon!

cooking up

Grilling it up – it may look burnt, but it’s just the fig balsamic

ready to slice

Ready to slice

ready to eat

Time to dine!

Crab Quesadilla

I treated myself to a fresh Dungeness Crab for dinner the other evening.  It was a really large crab, so I ended up with some delicious lump crab meat left over.  Instead of making crab cakes, I decided to make a crab quesadilla.  I mixed the lump crab meat with my favorite Mexican 2-cheese blend from Tillamook and added some chopped avocado.  After heating the corn tortillas in a medium-hot pan, I added the crab mixture and topped with another tortilla.  I flipped the quesadilla once to ensure the mixture was heated through and the cheese was melted.  Placing the quesadilla onto a cutting board, I used a pizza cutter to slice it into quarters.  The punch of the cheese paired nicely with the sweet crab and avocado.  Delicious!

ingredients

The ingredients

mixing avocado crab cheese

Mixing the crab, cheese, and avocado

heating tortilla

Heating the tortillas

adding the toppings

Adding the filling

topped with tortilla

Topping with a second tortilla

ready to eat

Ready to eat!

Holy Molcajete! Now that’s Guacamole

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My friend, Laura, sent me a house warming gift of a granite molcajete.  Last year, she visited me and we went to a restaurant called Oba! where they make table side guacamole using a molcajete.  It was fun to watch as the waiter threw in lots of delicious ingredients and ground them into a creamy, delicious guacamole for us to devour.  I thought I’d try my hand at making my guacamole in my very own molcajete.  I like to keep my guacamole simple so I can savor the rich taste of avocado.  Three simple ingredients:  avocados, garlic, salt.  Add the chips and enjoy!

grinding rice

First steps:  cure the molcajete by grinding uncooked rice

ground after some muscle

Lots of hard work and muscle to grind it into dust, followed by a rinse in hot water

season with salt

Next up:  rock salt

salt inside

Adding the rock salt

salt ground into dust

Ground into a fine salty dust followed by a rinse in hot water

avocados

Ripened avocados ready for smashing

avocado chunks

The scooped-out insides of the avocados

adding the garlic

Adding the salt and garlic

creamy goodness

Smashed into creamy goodness

add some chips

Add some chips and dig in!

Lasagna – It’s What’s for New Year’s!

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Ever since I can remember, my family tradition was to eat Pork and Sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.  It was said to bring good luck in the new year.  And once I was married, I carried on the tradition for 13 years.  After the year I have had, I thought it might be time to revisit my tradition for culinary luck in the new year.  This year, I decided to try something new- to select something I like to cook and love to eat.  I chose lasagna.  I used a basic recipe and added some modifications.  I’m not sure it will bring good luck, but I certainly enjoyed eating it!

the ingredients

Gathering the ingredients

rough recipe

The basic recipe

onions and beef

Browning the onions and ground beef

boiling noodles

Boiling the noodles

new pan liner

Trying out a new liner to help with the clean-up

layering the noodles

Layering the noodles

layer of cheeses

Followed by the ricotta and cheeses

ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

done baking

Fully baked

ready to freeze

Packaged individually for the freezer

complete meal

Cheers and Happiness in 2014!

Recipe:

  • 16 pieces of lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 3 cups spaghetti sauce (I used Newman’s Own Sockarooni)
  • 4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup Italian blend cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (I used shredded, so I just eyeballed it)
  • Spicy Italian seasoning (*if desired- adds a bit of punch)
  • Reynolds Wrap pan liner (*if desired- it worked well!)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Saute chopped onion until clear.  Brown the beef.  Add spaghetti sauce and heat through.  Line 9 x 13 pan with Reynolds Wrap pan liner if desired.  Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture in bottom of pan.  Top with 4 pieces of lasagna, overlapping the edges.  Spread 1/3 of the ricotta cheese and mozzarella/Italian cheeses over pasta.  Sprinkle with Spicy Italian Seasoning.  Cover with 1/4 of sauce mixture.  Repeat layers twice, beginning and ending with the pasta.  Spread the remaining 1/4 sauce mixture on top of pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a final dash of the Spicy Italian Seasoning.  Cover with foil.  Back 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Makes 8 – 10 servings.

Grilled Cheese with an Italian Twist

I had a craving for grilled cheese today, but wanted to put a twist on the classic.  So I pulled out the provolone and mozzarella and set to work.

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My ingredients

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The trick= lots of butter on the bread!

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First layer = provolone

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Add the shredded mozzarella next

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My secret weapon= Spicy Italian Herb Seasoning (YUM!)

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Top with another slice of provolone

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And the bread topper….

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Grill to a toasty brown

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Serve with your favorite tomato sauce and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • bread of choice (I used Dave’s Killer Bread multi-grain)
  • butter
  • sliced provolone
  • shredded mozzarella
  • Favorite seasoning
  • Favorite tomato sauce (I chose Newman’s Own Marinara)

What did you do with all that turkey?

Well, I looked at my turkey leftovers and decided to make a version of roll-ups.  I believe the original recipe came from my Mom’s Welcome Wagon cookbook from Central Pennsylvania and was called “Chicken Roll-ups”.  The original recipe uses chicken, cheddar cheese, crescent rolls, and cream of chicken or mushroom soup.  I decided to take a Mexican twist on the original.  I used turkey leftovers with a Pepper Jack/ Cheddar cheese and skipped the soup in favor of guacamole.  How can you go wrong with dough, cheese, and turkey?

pepper jack and cheddar

Tillamook Mexican 2 cheese blend

turkey and mexican cheese

Cut up turkey and cheese

roll out the dough

Crescent roll being rolled flat

fill the dough with turkey cheese

Adding the turkey and cheese filling

rolled and ready to go

Roll-up rolled

pan ready for the oven

Prepped for the oven

baking complete

Freshly baked

plated with guacamole

Roll-ups plated with a side of guacamole

Recipe:

Turkey – cut into small pieces

Mexican 2-cheese shredded (Pepper Jack & Cheddar combo)

Crescent rolls

Side of guacamole (I make my own using only an avocado, minced garlic, and sea salt)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Spray pan with cooking spray
  • Cut up turkey into small pieces and combine with shredded cheese
  • Open crescent rolls and roll each triangle flat
  • Fill crescent roll with turkey/ cheese combo
  • Roll tightly and add to pan
  • Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown
  • Serve with a side of guacamole (and/or salsa)
  • Enjoy!